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PM Trudeau to offer update on impact of COVID-19 aid

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OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to address Canadians from Rideau Cottage Monday morning, where he’ll speak to the latest federal response plans for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the impacts of the existing aid measures.

Over the last few months, in an effort to offset the economic and social impacts of the nationwide shutdowns, the federal government rolled out a series of direct financial assistance programs.

The two biggest have been the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which more than 8.4 million Canadians have applied for, receiving a total of $43.5 billion; and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which more than 195,500 employers have applied for, receiving $9.3 billion to help cover employees’ pay. Smaller offerings have also been made to targeted sectors and segments of the population, such as students, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The massive spending—passed swiftly through abbreviated emergency House of Commons sittings—has prompted calls from the opposition parties for a full accounting of the cost to taxpayers so far and the overall impact COVID-19 has had on the economy given the damage its done to global markets.

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To-date the government has said there remain too many uncertainties to offer up an accurate budget or economic update.

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Nearing three full months since the spread of the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic and Trudeau began delivering nearly daily addresses, many parts of the country are well into economic reopening plans as the virus’ spread appears to be slowing.

Though, as federal modelling data projected last week, Canada could be in for an “explosive” second wave if public health restrictions are loosened too fast, too soon.

One of the largest public health restrictions remaining in place is the shutdown at the border to nearly all international travel.

The border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed to all non-essential or “discretionary” travel since mid-March in response to the pandemic, with the latest extension on the restrictions in effect until June 21 at least. The agreement, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border.

At the end of May, Trudeau indicated that the government was exploring possible tweaks to the current Canada-U.S. border restrictions that could allow Canadian citizens or permanent residents to be able to reunite under strict conditions through a modification of the directives for the Canada Border Services Agency.  

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